The Garden of Eden.
The realm of the dead.
The effects of Golgotha.
Who is the "neighbor"?
The LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden.
1Mo 2,5 Now no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of
the field had yet sprouted, for the LORD God had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man
to cultivate the ground. 2,6 But a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of
2,7 Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. 2,8 The LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. 2,9 Out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Gen 2, 5- 9;
In the LXX the Hebrew word "Garden of God" in the history of Creation of
Gen 2 (Gen 2) was mistranslated by the term "Paradise" – an Iranian loanword which
literally means "enclosure" (LXX= Septuagint: the oldest translation of the Old Testament
into Greek, the language of the Hellenistic world of that time, around 3rd/2nd
century B.C.). Since that time "Paradise" has been a religious expression in Greek
Judaism. In contrast to that Hebrew Judaism does not know this expression. It is not to be found in
the entire Hebrew Old Testament either, where only the appellation of the original text "Garden
of Eden" or "Garden of God" can be found.
The name, which is used in the Old Testament for this tract of land - for it has been such a thing - is "Eden". In this land of Eden, to be more precise in the east of this land, God has created an absolutely beautiful, blossoming garden and has taken man in there.
Owing to the translation in the LXX the term "Paradise" has outlasted the centuries and has remained a synonym for the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve lived immediately after their creation.
Well, this misunderstanding would not be that bad, if there were not a place, which is actually referred to - this time, however, in the New Testament, - as "Paradise".
Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.
Lk 23,42 And he was saying, "Jesus, remember me when You come in
Your kingdom!" 23,43 And He said to him, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with
Me in Paradise." Lk 23,42-43;
Paul was caught up into Paradise.
2Cor 12,3 And I know how such a man–whether in the body or apart from
the body I do not know, God knows– 12,4 was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible
words, which a man is not permitted to speak. 2Cor 12, 3- 4;
The tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.
Rev 2,7 ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the
churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise
of God.’ Rev 2, 7;
This last text above, from Rev 2,7, might also be the reason why again and again the
wrong opinion arises that the "Garden of Eden" would be identical with this "Paradise
of God". Both texts - Ex 2,9 and Rev 2,7 - refer to the "tree of life". However,
with the difference that we are on the earth, in the land of Eden, in a garden in the east of this
land, in Ex 2,9, whereas the passages from the New Testament describe quite unmistakably a
Therefore, the trees of life in these texts are not to be regarded as necessarily identical either. In the heavenly Jerusalem, in the New Creation – Rev 22,1-2 – we have whole rows of such trees of life, on either side of the river of the water of life.
In the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life
Rev22,1 Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as
crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, 22,2 in the middle of its street. On
either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit
every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. Rev 22, 1- 2;
Rev 22,12 Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. 22,13 "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end." 22,14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. 22,15 Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying. Rev 22,12-15;
(See also Chapter 14: “The New Creation.”)
So, the "tree of life" is mentioned in connection with the following
- In the Garden of Eden – a garden in the east of Eden, on this
earth of the First Creation (Gen 2,8).
- In the Paradise of God – a place in heaven, where "those
who are not overcome by evil but who overcome evil with good" stay (Rev 2,7).
- In the new Jerusalem – the Holy City, which comes down from
heaven in the New Creation (Rev 22,2.14).
On account of the statement from Rev 2,7: "To him who overcomes, I will grant
to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God" one could assume that this text
here – as the one in Rev 22,2.14 - refers to the heavenly Jerusalem. However, the expression
"overcomes" rather applies to "those who are not overcome by evil but who overcome
evil with good", who will rise at the raising from the dead and the Rapture before the
Millennium. Moreover, the term "Paradise" is not used a single time in the chapters 21 and
22 of the Revelation, where this heavenly Jerusalem is described in every detail. And so, the
"Paradise of God" from Rev 2,7 does not seem to be identical with the heavenly Jerusalem,
but nevertheless it seems to be an independent place in the dimension of God.
(See also Chapter 14: “The New Creation - The new, heavenly Jerusalem.”)
(See also Table 12: “The earthly
and the heavenly Jerusalem.”)
Consequently, for the purposes of the following analysis, we can leave the
"Garden of Eden" as well as the "heavenly Jerusalem" out of consideration and
proceed with those passages from the Scriptures, which directly refer to "Paradise".
In the text above, in Lk 23,43, the Lord says to the criminal, "Today - (that
is to say after his and the criminal’s death) - you shall be with Me in Paradise". This
statement leads to the assumption that Paradise has something to do with the realm of the dead, and
therefore, we want to inform ourselves briefly on the statements of the Scriptures in this
We have two different forms of the nether world in the Holy Scriptures. On the one hand the place of eternal damnation, the final place of punishment, which is called the "lake of fire" in Rev 19,20 and 20,14-15. The event through which the godless get to this eternal damnation, into the "lake of fire", after their Resurrection and their condemnation at the Last Judgment, is called "second death" in Rev 20,14. Instead of the term "lake of fire" we also find the expressions "fire" (Jn 15,6; 1Cor 3,15; 2Pet 3,7), "unquenchable fire" (Mt 3,12; Mk 9,43.48; Lk 3,17), "eternal fire" (Mt 18,8;25,41), "perdition" (2Pet 3,7), and "eternal perdition" (2The 1,9) in the New Testament.
And then there is the area which is of particular interest to us in this connection: the realm of the dead. This is the whereabouts of men between their death and their Resurrection which is limited in time. The Hebrew term for it, which is used in the Old Testament, is "Sheol", while we find the Greek term "Hades" in the New Testament. Luther translated both terms with "hell".
When we now take a look at the Sheol of the Old Testament, it is for the most part described as a place of darkness and silence in the lower parts of the earth (Job 7,9; 21,13; 33,24; Isa 14,15; Ezk 32,18). There is "no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom" (Ecc 9,10). The wicked grow silent in Sheol (Ps 31,17) and there can be found godless (Ps 9,17; Job 24,19) as well as righteous (Isa 38,10).
There is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol.
Ecc 9,10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for
there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol where you are going. Ecc 9,10;
Silently they go down to Sheol. But to God they say, ‘Depart from us’!
Job 21,13 They spend their days in prosperity, And silently they go
down to Sheol.21,14 But to God they say, ‘Depart from us! We do not even desire the knowledge of
Your ways’. Job 21,13-14;
Let the wicked be put to shame, let them be silent in Sheol.
Ps 31,17 Let me not be put to shame, O LORD, for I call upon You; Let
the wicked be put to shame, let them be silent in Sheol. Ps 31,17;
The wicked and even all the nations who forget God will return to Sheol.
Ps 9,17 The wicked will return to Sheol, Even all the nations
who forget God. Ps 9,17;
The Sheol consume those who have sinned.
Job 24,19 Drought and heat the snow waters, So does Sheol those who
have sinned. Job 24,19;
I will look on man no more among the inhabitants of the Sheol.
Isa 38,10 I said, "In the middle of my life I am to enter the
gates of Sheol; I am to be deprived of the rest of my years." 38,11 I said, "I will not
see the LORD, The LORD in the land of the living; I will look on man no more among the
inhabitants of the Sheol”. Isa 38,10-11;
But also Hades of the New Testament is in the lower parts of the earth, as Mt 11,23
and/or Lk 10,15 confirm.
You will descend to Hades.
Mt 11,23 And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You
will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would
have remained to this day. Mt 11,23;
But in contrast to the Sheol of the Old Testament, the realm of the dead in the New
Testament does not seem any more to be a place of non-activity. Moreover, righteous and wicked or
not united any more. As we can gather from the text below, the realm of the dead houses on the one
hand Hades, the place of torment, where the godless and wicked suffer agony and on the other hand
"Abraham's bosom", where the poor Lazarus is comforted.
The rich man and the poor Lazarus.
Lk 16,19 Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple
and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. 16,20 And a poor man named Lazarus was laid
at his gate, covered with sores, 16,21 and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from
the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. 16,22 Now the
poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also
died and was buried.
16,23 In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. 16,24 "And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’
16,25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. 16,26 ‘And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’
16,27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house– 16,28 for I have five brothers–in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ 16,29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 16,30 But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’
16,31 But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’ . Lk 16,19-31;
And here we are for the first time filled with the suspicion that there must have
been a change between the Old and the New Testament in connection with the realm of the dead.
Now, the above parable of the poor Lazarus is often doubted and its connection to reality is denied. The objection is raised that this parable is entirely pure imagination and therefore unsuitable for continuing an interpretation on its basis. But when we take a closer look at the parables of the Lord, we will realize that the acting characters there are always fictitious all right, the living conditions, however, in which they act, have quite a connection to reality.
No matter if you take the parable of the sower, where the birds, the rocky ground, the good soil, and the thorns correspond to reality just as the things which they bring about: The birds eat the seed, the rocky ground makes it sprout too early, the thorns cover up the growing grain and only the good soil brings forth its fruit.
(See also Excursus 01: “The parable of
But also the parables of the fig tree, of the weeds among the wheat, of the treasure
in the field, as well as all other parables of the Lord, they all prove that on the first, the real
level the contents are quite realistic and by no means any abstract constructions.
(See also Excursus 01: “The interpretation of the
Therefore we can also here, in this parable, proceed from the assumption that the
poor Lazarus and the rich man did not actually exist, but that all other statements, such as Hades,
father Abraham and "Abraham's bosom", have to be seen as given facts of the other world.
Another argument, which is put forward in connection with this parable, is the view that it is not the realm of the dead which is meant here, but rather already the Universal Resurrection and that the New Jerusalem, that is to say eternity is meant by the "bosom of Abraham".
But this can be quite clearly refuted in the light of the context. In Lk 16,27-28 it says, "And he said, 'Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father's house - for I have five brothers - in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment'". If this story were set at the end of the world, after the Last Judgment, this heaven and this earth would not exist any more and the five brothers of the rich man could consequently not be any more on the earth either. Therefore this parable cannot be a consequence of the Last Judgment either, but describes an event which takes place immediately after the death and/or funeral of the two characters of the parable.
On account of the statements of Mt 11,23 and Lk 16,23 the whereabouts of the godless Jews and Gentiles between death and Universal Resurrection can be assumed as a common one. After their death the godless of the whole world will suffer agony at this place of torment - just as it is said of the rich man in Lk 16,23-24 that he was in Hades and suffered "agony in this flame".
In a similar way it is also tried to place the promise of the Lord to the criminal
on the cross at the end of the world.
I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.
Lk 23,39 One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse
at Him, saying, "Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!" 23,40 But the other
answered, and rebuking him said, "Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same
sentence of condemnation? 23,41 "And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving
what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." 23,42 And he was
saying, "Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!" 23,43 And He said to him,
"Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise." Lk 23,39-43;
In principle, the point of this controversy is, where you want to put in the colon -
which is an insertion in the Greek text. If you translate this passage: "Truly I say to you
today: You shall be with Me in Paradise", which suggests a promise for the end of the world. Or
rather in the way as it says above: "Truly, I say to you: Today you shall be with Me in
Paradise", which implies an immediate fulfillment.
It is now relatively interesting to point out that both views may be different in a superficial, apparent interpretation, but that they, seen from the background, are based on the same wrong premise. For the point at issue in the discussion is, if the criminal is with the Lord in Paradise on the very same day or only at a later time, namely at the Resurrection of the dead. By equating in both cases Paradise with heaven, the first view draws the conclusion that the righteous dead do not go to the realm of the dead after their death, but go immediately to heaven and will be with the Lord. In the second case the righteous dead would rest in the realm of the dead up to their Resurrection, and resurrect only then.
But a fact that both views do not take into account at all is the interpretation of "Paradise". These views proceed automatically from the assumption that "Paradise" means heaven, to which the righteous dead go - either on the very day of their death or only at the end of the world.
Now, it might well be that the statement from Rev 2,7 enters into that here. For there it says, "To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God". And as explained at the beginning, both the term "Paradise" and the fact that the "tree of life" is there, lead people to see heaven here.
But when we take a closer look at these two texts – Rev 2,7 and Lk 23,43 – we realize that both prophecies come from the Lord. One time in his revelation to John, the second time to the criminal on the cross. Not least for that reason the correctness of these statements cannot be doubted. However, the Lord does not mention in neither of the two texts explicitly that this Paradise is situated in heaven.
The statement in the Revelation is taken from the Epistle to the angel of the church in Ephesus and refers to those who are not overcome by evil but who overcome evil with good in the churches. So, it is the faithful in Christ, who are addressed here. And it is exactly of these faithful in Christ that Paul tells us in 1The 4,16-17 that they will - after they have died - rise from the dead at the return of the Lord and that they will be caught up into heaven to the Lord together with the living. So, if Paradise were in heaven, they would already have been there since their death and would not have to be caught up into heaven any more.
The dead in Christ will rise first.
1The 4,16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout,
with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise
first. 4,17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds
to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 1The 4,16-17;
And the promise to the criminal is in fact all the more the proof of the fact that
heaven cannot be meant by the term of "Paradise". For we have repeated confirmations in
the Scriptures of the fact that the Lord did not ascend to heaven immediately after his death, but
that he descended to the realm of the dead.
The Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
Mt 12,38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him,
"Teacher, we want to see a sign from You." 12,39 But He answered and said to them,
"An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but
the sign of Jonah the prophet;
12,40 for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Mt 12,38-40;
He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth.
Eph 4,8 Therefore it says, "When He ascended on high, He led
captive a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men." 4,9 Now this expression, "He
ascended," what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the
earth? 4,10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that
He might fill all things. Eph 4, 8-10;
For the gospel has been preached even to those who are dead.
1Pet 4,6 For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to
those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit
according to the will of God. 1Pet 4, 6;
So, we have here not only the determined statement that after his death the Lord
descended into the lower parts of the earth, that is to say into the realm of the dead, but also the
explanation of the fact what he was doing during that time in the realm of the dead: As he preached
the Gospel during his lifetime to the living, he was preaching now, as a dead man, the Gospel to the
dead in the realm of the dead.
Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day.
Lk 24,45 Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 24,46
and He said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from
the dead the third day. Lk 24,45-46;
But finally we also have the repeated statements in the New Testament that Christ
"has risen from the dead". What else does this mean but that he was in the realm of the
dead before, namely with these dead?
And here the circle of argumentation becomes complete: If the Lord descended into the lower parts of the earth, that is to say into the realm of the dead immediately after his death, that is to say on the day he referred to as "today" vis-à-vis the criminal and rose from the dead only on the third day, also the criminal got there with him on the day of his death – according to the promise of the Lord. Consequently, this place cannot be in heaven, but the place the Lord meant by "Paradise" can only be the whereabouts of the dead, that is to say the realm of the dead.
Another confirmation of the fact that Paradise is not in heaven, is given to us by Paul, here below in 2Cor 12,1-4.
Paul and his revelation of the Lord.
2Cor 12,1 Boasting is necessary, though it is not profitable; but I
will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. 12,2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years
ago–whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows–such a man was
caught up to the third heaven. 12,3 And I know how such a man–whether in the body or apart
from the body I do not know, God knows– 12,4 was caught up into Paradise and heard
inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak. 2Cor 12, 1- 4;
He tells us of two revelations of the Lord, which were bestowed upon him. On one
occasion - fourteen years before as he writes here to the Corinthians – he was caught up to the
third heaven, on another occasion he was caught up into Paradise. Although we do not know the
further contents of these revelations, we nevertheless realize that there are at least three heavens
and understand now also the repeated mention of the "heavens" (plural) in the Old and in
the New Testament (for instance Deut 33,26; Ps 11,4. 89,3; 115,3; Neh 9,6; Lk 10,20; 12,33; 21,26;
2Pet 3,7-10-12; etc.).
On account of the fact that it is mentioned separately, one can conclude that his being caught up into Paradise was another event than his being caught up to the third heaven. We learn that in Paradise "inexpressible words" are spoken, "which a man is not permitted to speak". And finally we find out that Paradise is not to be located in heaven, especially not in the third heaven, but that Paul wanted to point out here, in his justification to the Corinthians - who obviously had reproached him for being not able to show for himself "revelations" like other ones - that he had been both above in heaven and in the lower parts of the earth and that he therefore is in no way inferior to these people.
The fact that the heavens and Paradise are separated spheres in the other dimension is also confirmed by the analysis carried out at the beginning of Lk 23,43. Also there the Lord did not ascend into heaven after his death at all. He rather descended into the realm of the dead and had been caught up into heaven only three days later. So, when he said to the criminal, "Today you shall be in Paradise with me", he could only mean the realm of the dead by Paradise and by no means - as some people think - heaven.
So, Paradise seems to be the part of the realm of the dead, in which the faithful in Christ stay in the interim period between death and Resurrection. And in order to come back to the statement of Paul above, in 2Cor 12,1-4, we can now deduce from it that at the mentioned two “visits” in heaven he was the first time in the third heaven, the second time, however, in the Paradise of the realm of the dead.
In the same Epistle - namely the Second Epistle to the Corinthians - Paul is speaking also of his own dying.
I prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.
2Cor 5,1 For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is
torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
5,2 For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, 5,3
inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked.
5,4 For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life.5,5 Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. 5,6 Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord– 5,7 for we walk by faith, not by sight– 5,8 we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. 5,9 Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.
5,10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 2Cor 5, 1-10;
Paul gives us here another knowledge. He is speaking of himself and of his departure
from life and he gives expression to his conviction that when his earthly house, his tent, is torn
down, that is to say, when his biological body dies, he will have a building in heaven, a house,
that is to say a new, spiritual body (a building, constructed by God), the existence of which is
(See also Excursus 07: “The resurrection body.”)
What is important in our connection is the statement that this will be in h e
a v e n. So, Paul does not speak here of his stopover in the realm of the dead, in Paradise,
but already of his later, final existence in heaven, with the spiritual body, which he will receive
after his Resurrection. For at the raising from the dead and the Rapture also the faithful are
"clothed" with this spiritual body, - the "dwelling from heaven" - when they are
caught up into heaven to the Lord.
And so, Paul also expresses his wish and his hope "rather not to be unclothed, but to be clothed". This is for one thing a hint at the fact that Paul hoped for the return of the Lord and with that for his Rapture and the Rapture of the elect during his lifetime. He rather wanted not to be "unclothed" - that is to say, to die with his earthly body and to wait in Paradise for Resurrection - but preferred rather to be "clothed" immediately, namely at the return of the Lord and the Rapture of the elect, to ascend with them alive to heaven to the Lord, whereby their earthly body will be transformed into a heavenly body.
But for another, this is also a clear hint at the fact that Paul knew very well that he would be "unclothed" at his death – if he did not live to see the return of the Lord and with that his own "clothing" at the Rapture - and that he would not come to heaven, but would wait for Resurrection in Paradise of the realm of the dead.
(See also Chapter 06: “”The Return of the Lord.”)
Finally we also learn in verse 2Cor 5,8, that the difference for the faithful
between the temporary stay in Paradise and the final eternal existence in heaven may be on the face
of it a huge one, however, that it is absolutely comparable with regard to the feeling of safety of
each faithful person. For, when Paul writes here that he "prefers rather to be absent from the
body and to be at home with the Lord", we realize: No matter if we are in Paradise of the realm
of the dead or in eternity, at both places we are "at home with the Lord".
And Paul mentions this wish to be with Christ also in his Epistle to the Philippians:
I have the desire to depart and be with Christ.
Phil 1,21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 1,22 But if
I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to
choose. 1,23 But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with
Christ, for that is very much better; 1,24 yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for
your sake. Phil 1,21-24;
Therefore, in conclusion, we can state here that "Paradise" as it is
called by the Lord in Lk 23,43 and by Paul in 2Cor 12,4 is nothing else but the region of the realm
of the dead, where the faithful in Christ stay until their raising. The righteous of the Old
Testament are in the "bosom of Abraham" according to Lk 16,19-31 whereas all godless and
wicked – also those of the Sheol of the Old Testament - have to suffer pain in Hades, the place of
But at the latest here the question arises how this completely different description
of the realm of the dead in the Scriptures - Sheol in the Old Testament with silence and inactivity
on the one hand and Hades and Paradise in the New Testament with communication, pain for the wicked
and consolations for the righteous on the other hand - can be explained.
The key verse for that can be found in Rev 1,17-18:
I have the keys of death and of Hades.
Rev 1,17 When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He
placed His right hand on me, saying, "Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, 1,18 and
the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death
and of Hades. Rev 1,17-18;
It is the Lord Jesus who explains to John that he was dead and is alive and that he
has the keys of death and of Hades. And we realize here that Golgotha did not only have effects in
heaven and on the earth, but also in the depths of the earth, in the realm of the dead.
We saw above, in Eph 4,8-10 and 1Pet 4,6 that the Lord preached the Gospel to the dead in Sheol, who were not without consciousness (Isa 14,9-10), in a similar way as he also had done it during his lifetime on the earth. This was necessary in so far as all people who had died up to that time had never heard the Good News of the salvation out of grace and therefore did not have any possibility to decide for or against God and Jesus Christ during their lives.
This sermon, the spread of which one has to imagine not acoustically (only three days for hundreds of millions of dead!), but rather spiritually and therefore also simultaneously to all listeners, undoubtedly led to a different response also among the dead. The righteous, who up to that time stayed together with the wicked and godless in Sheol, probably absorbed these words with joy and praised the Lord. But also among the others – as it has also been the case with the living – there were certainly many who embraced the faith in the Lord.
But in contrast to the living, to whom God gives the chance to convert to him and thus to be saved up to the very last second of their lives (see the criminal on the cross!), these dead here, in Sheol, have only this one and therewith their last chance when the Lord preaches the Gospel. And since this last decision - salvation or damnation - for all these dead was taken on this occasion, their eternal and final destiny could take its course already at that moment. However, in God's plan there are still thousands of years scheduled between Golgotha and eternity. A time during which still millions, or even billions of people shall embrace the belief in the one and only God and his son Jesus Christ.
This is a comparable situation as we will find it later, at the return of the Lord, as well. Also here, eternity could already start in theory, after all Gentiles have been defeated and have realized that a God exists. But also here God has provided for the Kingdom of Peace of the Lord Jesus which will last for a thousand years before eternity starts as reward for punishment for men and as prefulfillment of the final promise.
(See also Chapter 10: “The Millennium.”)
And the situation seems to be similar with the dead after Golgotha. Eternity has not
yet begun, but all dead shall – according to their decision they have taken - receive the promised
reward or the promised punishment as a prefulfillment of their final destiny. And so the Lord opens
the realm of the dead, as we can read above, in Rev 1,18, and leads the faithful into the Paradise
of God, where they will live until their resurrection and eat from the tree of life. This could also
be meant by Paul in his Epistle to the Ephesians, when he writes above, in Eph 4,8: "He
ascended on high and led captive a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men".
And so we find the criminal from the cross - presumably as the first man anyway - in Paradise, whereas the poor Lazarus is comforted in the "bosom of Abraham" - the whereabouts of the righteous of the Old Testament. The rich man from Lk 16,19-31, however, is – like all godless and wicked – in Hades, where he suffers agonies and pain in the fire.
Just as the Millennium will not yet be eternity, also Hades is not yet the lake of fire and the Paradise of God is not yet the heavenly Jerusalem. Nevertheless all three are a foretaste of what those men who live in them have to expect in future.
In the two passages from the Scriptures above also another aspect becomes apparent.
It is the difference between the expectations the Jews and those the Christians place in salvation.
In the parable of the poor Lazarus the Lord speaks of the fact that Lazarus was carried by the angels to the "bosom of Abraham" after his death. This is the fulfillment of the dreams for the Jews believing in the Mosaic faith of that time as well as, by the way, of our time, who understand themselves as "children of Abraham", it is the reward for a life pleasing to God. We see here the way of salvation of the Old Testament and thus the way of salvation of the Jews. Due to the rejection of the Messiah they have not had any remission of the sins out of grace up to today. They expect the reward for their good deeds and the punishment for their sins.
The way of salvation of the New Testament of the Christians is completely different. As we have seen above in the example of the criminal, this man apparently was a criminal up to the very last hour of his life. Probably he did not have any deeds to show for himself which would have been to be rewarded by God. His only credit was that he had believed in Jesus Christ as being the Son of God. While all other men around had taunted at the Nazarene on the cross, he was one of the few, who believed in him.
And we become aware of the fact that this has actually been pure belief, when we imagine the Lord on the cross: full of blood and wounds due to the flagellation, with a ridiculous crown of thorns on his head, his hands and feet pierced and with the mark of death. Here was nothing any more that would have been able to nourish an earthly hope. There was no motive to expect any help from this person hanging on the cross. And nevertheless the criminal says, "Remember me when You come in Your kingdom". And that in the face of his own death, too.
And although the Lord on the cross had not said a single word in reply against all the mockery and insult of the bystanders, his mouth opens at this request of the man who was crucified together with him, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise."
So, this criminal is saved. He will not die the "second death". But he did not achieve salvation because of good deeds. He was not a righteous man, he was a believer. And according to the Jewish opinion he can never ever get to the "bosom of Abraham".
But the Christian way of salvation looks different. Since the Son of God lived on this earth and died for our sins, there has been just one criterion for our salvation:
the belief in Jesus Christ, the Son of God and in his offering for
He who believes in the Son has eternal life.
Jn 3,36 "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but
he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." Jn 3,36;
But this does not mean that the Christian does not do any good deeds. Also the
criminal - if he had had the opportunity to live on - surely would not have led a criminal life any
more from that moment on, but would have changed. In a similar way as we know it from Mary from
It is the motives which make the difference between Jews and Christians. While the Jews - and unfortunately also certain denominations in Christianity - do their good deeds in order to be able to list them on an "account" and to present the "account balance" to God at the end of their days, the motive of the faithful Christian for his actions is love. The love to his God and to his neighbor.
And here we also see how diametrically opposed these two views are. The Jews are good and righteous because they fear the punishment for sin - they even have to fear punishment. For the burden of their sin cannot be taken from them without the acceptance of the offering of Christ. They do what has been told to them in the "law", that is to say in the Commandments of the Torah. For them God is an avenging God. He is their Lord and their God, and they are his servants and handmaids.
The Christians are good and righteous out of love. Their foremost Commandment is: Love God with all your heart. And in the love to God all his Commandments and also his love to men and to his entire Creation are included. They have the Savior, the Son of God, who died for their sins. For them God is a loving God. He is their father, and they are his children.
While the Christians are saved due to the acceptance of the ransom sacrifice of Christ, the Jews remain in their sins. Due to the fact that they did not want to recognize their Messiah when he came to them, due to the fact that they did not want to be "born", as the following passage from the Scriptures says, they do not have any Redeemer for their sins. This has already been predicted to them among others by the prophet Hosea.
For at the time of the breaking forth of children, he was not there.
Hos 13,9 It is your destruction, O Israel, That you are against Me,
against your help. 13,10 Where now is your king That he may save you in all your cities, And
your judges of whom you requested, "Give me a king and princes"? 13,11 I gave you a king
in My anger And took him away in My wrath.
13,12 The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; His sin is stored up. 13,13 The pains of childbirth come upon him; He is not a wise son, For at the time of the breaking forth of children, he was not there. Hos 13, 9-13;
And while the Jews have to go the way they chose to the very end whether they like
it or not, those Christians who think that they also have to go the "Jewish way" without
the ransom sacrifice of Christ, are the dupes. They could be absolved in belief, out of grace. But
they want to be judged by the law. It is like a newborn child wants to return into the body of its
mother. For the way of salvation of the Christian is not any more salvation by law and obedience out
of fear as it is the case with the Jews, but salvation by grace and obedience out of love.
Love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.
Mt 22,35 One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him,
22,36 "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" 22,37 And He said to him,
"‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with
all your mind.’ 22,38 "This is the great and foremost commandment. 22,39 "The second
is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Lev 29,18) 22,40 "On these
two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets." Mt 22,35-40;
Now the above, in Mt 22,39, the "Second" Commandment which is, however,
equivalent to the First Commandment of the love to God: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
And here there were difficulties in understanding already at the time of Jesus, which the Lord tried
to explain by means of the parable of the good Samaritan.
The good Samaritan.
Lk 10,25 And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying,
"Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" 10,26 And He said to him, "What
is written in the Law? How does it read to you?" 10,27 And he answered, "You shall love
the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with
all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." 10,28 And He said to him, "You have
answered correctly; do this and you will live."
10,29 But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" 10,30 Jesus replied and said, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead.
10,31 "And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 10,32 "Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 10,33 "But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, 10,34 and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 10,35 "On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.’
10,36 "Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?" 10,37 And he said, "The one who showed mercy toward him." Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do the same." Lk 10,25-37;
This parable is probably the one which - on account of a superficial way of looking
at things - has been misunderstood more than any other passage of the Bible all over the world. The
crucial point of this misunderstanding – in order to anticipate it right at the beginning – is
not the exhortation to be merciful and helpful. This is correct and important and follows quite
clearly from the message of the Lord at the end of the parable, in verse Lk 10,37.
The misunderstanding is rather based on the fact that the answer to the question of the lawyer is misinterpreted. And also some exegetes make the same mistake and get entangled in the text of the parable and give a very detailed answer to the question why the priest and the Levite - in contrast to the Samaritan - did not help the man who had been assaulted, without paying the necessary attention to the intrinsic question of this parable "Who is my neighbor?" and "Whom do I have to love as myself?".
The common opinion – which is taken up and propagated by all kinds of social institutions, which is quite understandable – is that we are here exhorted by God to love all the poor and persons in need the same way we love ourselves and to give them out of this love of ours an appropriate help and support.
But when we now take a closer look at the text, we will see a somewhat different intrinsic meaning. For, there it says in the final question of the Lord to the lawyer,
"Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to
the man who fell into the robbers' hands?“
So, he is asked who the neighbor is – to be more precise, the neighbor to the man
who fell into the robber's hands. The following should then be the answer to his question from verse
Lk 10,29 "Who is my neighbor?“
At the same time this is, however, also the concretization of the person of the "neighbor" of the Second Commandment - after the Commandment of the love to God - and signifies for us Christians those people whom we shall love the same way we love ourselves. And here we realize in the above-mentioned question of the Lord – and in the answer of the lawyer - a difference compared with the usual interpretation.
The Lord asked who had become the neighbor to the man who had fallen among robbers. And the lawyer answered, "The one who showed mercy toward him". Therefore, it is not the person in need, who was the neighbor to the Samaritan, but it is the other way round: Because of his help, the Samaritan proved to be the neighbor to the man who had been assaulted.
Hence follows the conclusion, however, that here the "Samaritans" – that is to say the helpers – are not commanded "to love the poor and the persons in need the same way they love themselves". Of course, they shall be merciful to them and help them. Thereby, they ultimately prove that they, too, love those persons in need. But it is those persons in need, who have been helped by them, who – according to this Commandment of God – are exhorted to love their helpers "the same way they love themselves".
And here we also become aware of the difference compared with the customary interpretation. Whereas the generally accepted interpretation tries – by inverting the lexical meaning – to give the impression that in this parable the man who had been assaulted is the neighbor to the Samaritan and postulates that the poor of the whole world are the "neighbors" to the more well-to-do people, the Lord means here on the one hand the strictly personal help in our immediate vicinity and on the other hand he commands those who have been helped to love their helpers "the way they love themselves".
So, according to the words of the Lord in this parable, the law of loving our neighbor is: Love the people who have helped you and show them your love the same way they have shown their love to you by having helped you. Therefore, loving our neighbor is not a category of pity, but a category of gratitude.
And as can be seen easily, this law does not only apply to the poor and to the persons in need. It also applies to us, who are not in need. For also we should be personally grateful to all those who have helped us in our lives - parents, brothers and sisters, relatives, acquaintances, friends, and also strangers who stood by us when we were in a state of distress and we should love them the way we love ourselves. All of them are our neighbors.
Finally the question could arise what that should mean exactly: "love (…) as yourself". But the answer to that question seems to be not really difficult: Everything that I concede to myself – from the material things, which I afford, up to my mistakes which I tolerate – all these are things which I should grant – materially or spiritually - also to this neighbor of mine. And with that an answer is also given to the question of the proportionality at the same time: What I cannot afford or do not want to afford myself, I do not have to accept - according to this definition - with my neighbor either.
With the concluding hint above, in Lk 10,37, "Go and do the same" the Lord intimated to the lawyer at the same time that his formulation of the question was a wrong one. The question should not be "Who is my neighbor?", but "Whom shall I be neighbor to?"
As we can see, this law is the commandment to men to love each other. One time by helping those in need and by making oneself known to him as his neighbor, the other time, when we were helped ourselves, by loving this merciful one, our neighbor, also and in particular for his help to us.
This is also once again pointed out to us by Paul in the Epistle to the Romans.
Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
Rom 13,9 For this, "You shall not commit adultery, you shall not
murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet," and if there is any other commandment, it is
summed up in this saying, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." 13,10 Love
does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. Rom 13, 9-10;
And here we come back to the First Commandment, namely the one of the love to God.
For when we love the one who is merciful toward us, it automatically emerges from that that we will
also love the one who was merciful toward us from the very beginning, who created us and who is
merciful toward us every day anew, by letting the sun rise over the good and the evil.
This is precisely the circumstance which has been considered too little by men since Adam and Eve. If the first men had oriented themselves at their decision to believe in God or the Devil by the fact who is really their "neighbor", who created themselves and who created everything around them for them, they would not have failed to realize that it was God who wanted the best for them and not the Devil, who is himself one of God's creatures and who had not lifted a hand for them up to that moment.
And so we also see through the background of the statement of the Lord in Mt 22,39, who says of these two Commandments that they are "equal" and that on these two commandments the whole Law and the Prophets depend.
Love of one’s neighbor
One of the biggest swindles in this world is the complete reversal of
the meaning of "love of one’s neighbor" in the Bible by churches, preachers and
aid organizations, with a view to stimulating the compassion of credulous people and
raking in money without too much trouble.